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New Mexico Democrats retain hold over statewide offices

November 7, 2018
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CORRECTS TO SAY RICHARD RUNS FOR STATE LAND COMMISSIONER, NOT GOVERNOR - In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 photo, Stephanie Garcia Richard campaigns for state land commissioner at a Democratic political rally in Santa Fe, N.M. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Democrats on Tuesday retained control over some of New Mexico’s most powerful statewide offices, building on a political track record for the Democratic Party that has spanned most of the past century.

Democrat state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard finished ahead of seasoned politician Patrick Lyons, a Republican, to become the first woman to serve as the commissioner of public lands, an influential post that oversees oil and gas development and renewable energy production across millions of acres of state trust land to fund public education.

Republicans had focused energy on supporting Lyons’ campaign. He won key endorsements during the campaign given that he knew the office well. A rancher from eastern New Mexico, he served two terms as land commissioner between 2003 and 2010.

Some criticized Garcia Richard for a lack of experience when it comes to land issues, but she argued that her knowledge about the classroom would bring a new perspective to an agency whose top priority is raising money for public schools.

The race came open when current Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, who defected from the Republican Party while in office, announced he would not seek a second term.

In other races, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas won a second term as the state’s top prosecutor as fellow Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver held on to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Incumbent state Treasurer Tim Eichenberg also kept his post, and Democrat Brian Colon unseated incumbent Republican Wayne Johnson to win back the auditor’s seat. Johnson has served as state auditor since late 2017 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy.

No stranger to politics, Colon once served as Democratic Party chairman. Winning the auditor’s seat ends a personal political drought for him. Colon ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010 and for Albuquerque mayor last year.

In the race for attorney general, Balderas finished ahead of immigration attorney Michael Hendricks, a Republican, and Libertarian attorney A. Blair Dunn to solidify his party’s control over the office. Republicans have held that seat only three times since statehood in 1912.

Balderas was first elected attorney general in 2014 after serving two terms as state auditor. In his first term, his office prosecuted high-profile cases against state politicians, including former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican, and former Democratic state Sen. Phil Griego.

Toulouse Oliver finished ahead of Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider to win her second term as the state’s top election official.

Toulouse Oliver was first elected secretary of state during a special election in November 2016 to finish the remainder of the term vacated by Duran. She announced her bid for re-election in 2017, saying she wanted to continue implementing reforms of the state’s campaign finance rules as well as increasing voter education in rural and Native American communities.

Toulouse Oliver made waves earlier this year when she tried to include the option of straight-party voting on this year’s ballots. The New Mexico Supreme Court ended up blocking that move.

Democrats also swept competitive races for the state Court of Appeals and a spot on the New Mexico Supreme Court.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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